October 26, 2016

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: Protect-a-Pilgrim

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: In Protect-a-Pilgrim, students build a shelter designed to protect Pilgrims from wind, rain, and snow. Includes modifications grades 2 - 8.Thanksgiving is right around the corner; I can already smell the pumpkin pie! To keep kids engaged during the holiday season, why not walk them through the experiences of the Pilgrims as they settled into their new homes in the Plymouth Colony?

Over the next few weeks, I'll be going though five STEM challenges that serve that purpose:

Mini Mayflower 

(Get to where you're going)

Protect-a-Pilgrim 
(Build a shelter)

Pumpkin Picker 
(Gather available food)

Corn Cultivator 
(Sustainable food source)

Turkey Transporter 
(Major needs are met; time for fun!)

Last week, the Pilgrims made it to the New World in Mini Mayflower. This week, it's time to Protect-a-Pilgrim!



Premise:

Students will design a shelter to protect a Pilgrim (or Native American) from wind, rain, and snow.


Where Can I Find Out More?


The video walk-through of Protect-a-Pilgrim is embedded below. In it, you'll find information about materials, modifying difficulty level, extensions and some tips & tricks to guide you, so you can better guide your students through the challenge. Check it out:





Where are the Others?


The resources are already in my TPT store, and the blog/video posts are coming over the next few weeks. This is the second of five Thanksgiving challenges. Starting Oct. 20, I'll be posting one Thanksgiving STEM challenge video every Thursday to my YouTube channel and here on my blog.

Until then, you'll find the Thanksgiving bundle briefly described in this post









All challenges are available individually and in discounted bundles in my TpT store, as well.


October 19, 2016

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: Mini Mayflower

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: Build a mini Mayflower for capacity and/or strength and sail to the New World. Includes modifications grades 2 - 8.


Thanksgiving approaches, and with it, the first long-ish holiday of the year. Sometimes you can feel yourself dragging your battered legs to that finish line! Trying to keep kids engaged as they too approach a much-needed rest can be a huge challenge. This is why I love STEM challenges so much. They're naturally enjoyable activities that are chock full of academic rigor (when done properly/with intent).

Over the coming weeks, I will be describing five (5) Thanksgiving challenges that follow the needs encountered by travelers setting up a new settlement: 

- Mini Mayflower (Get to where you're going)
- Protect-a-Pilgrim (Build a shelter)
- Pumpkin Picker (Gather available food)
- Corn Cultivator (Set up sustainable food source)
- Turkey Transporter (Once all major needs are met, there's time for fun!)


This week, we're heading over to the New World with Mini Mayflower!



Premise:


Students design a boat built for capacity and/or speed. Capacity can be measured in any uniform object: pennies, base ten blocks, candy pumpkins (warning: food can get messy if/when the ships sink), etc.






Where Can I Find Out More?


The video walk-through of Mini Mayflower is embedded below. In it, you'll find information about materials, modifying difficulty level, extensions and some tips & tricks to guide you, so you can better guide your students through the challenge. Check it out:




Where are the Others?


Patience, grasshopper! Good things come to those who wait. This is the first of five Thanksgiving challenges. Starting Oct. 20, I'll be posting one Thanksgiving STEM challenge video every Thursday to my YouTube channel and here on my blog.

Until then, you'll find the Thanksgiving bundle briefly described in this post










All challenges are available individually and in discounted bundles in my TpT store, as well.



October 12, 2016

Frequently Asked Questions

Your burning STEM Challenge questions answered. If yours isn't on the list, comment or message and I'll be happy to answer!



There are a few questions I get quite a bit through my TPT store, this blog, and other social media. Today, I'm covering my top 4. 

Question: Your STEM challenges are listed for grades 2 - 8. I don't think it's possible that any activity could be appropriate for that age range; are you full of lies? 

Short answer - It's totally possible / I'm not full of lies! Because I know this is a very common question and cause for concern, I had a special video made to quickly explain how any challenge can be made appropriate for any age! Watch it here:



For just a little offering of proof, here are a few of the teacher-buyer comments I've received on one of my resources, Protect-a-Pilgrim:

“Fun activity to use year after year. It was a great way to challenge my students with learning disabilities (high school). They loved doing this activity.”

“My middle school kids had a lot of fun.”

“So awesome! My firsties really enjoyed this activity.”

“My 7th and 8th graders loved this!”

"Did it with first graders...They loved it!"

Question: Should every STEM challenge be treated as a competition?

Short answer: No, not every challenge. And before you label me as one of those give-everyone-a-trophy-for-trying people, hear me out. I have good reasons, check out the video below.

Question: Should I use a materials budget lists to constrain students in the engineering process?

Short answer: I'm not a fan, so I don't use them. That doesn't mean you shouldn't or that they can't be used well. For me, budget lists slow down the process too much without providing a valuable trade-off for that investment of time. However, giving students constraints to design around is a critical piece of the engineering process! I prefer to constrain materials simply by only providing a set amount, as well as constraining other aspects of the challenge rather than implement materials budgets. I explain more in the video above.

Question: What challenges do you have available for ____ (time of year)? / Are you ever going to bundle all of your challenges?

Yes, I finally did create a mega bundle! I have 43 challenges in all. You can see the quick preview of my current challenge library in the brief video below:



Do you have a burning STEM challenge question?

I love to discuss STEM challenges, so feel free to reach out with any questions you might have in the comments, via email, or social media. You'll find links for all up in the header of this page.

October 6, 2016

Halloween STEM Challenge: Ghosts in the Graveyard

Halloween STEM Challenge: Ghosts in the Graveyard is an engaging, collaborative, hands-on activity in which students design a device to lift ghost out of the graveyard.

Kids have the worst time trying to concentrate on school the day of Halloween -- and it's even worse the day after! You'll need something extra engaging for them in order to keep their brains working at max capacity. Wouldn't you know it, I've got just the thing: Ghosts in the Graveyard! 


Premise:

Students build a device to lift ghosts out of the graveyard. This is essentially an exploration of pulleys.


Halloween Ban?

If Halloween activities are taboo or forbidden in your classroom, not to worry! Connect this challenge with pulleys and other simple machines. In fact, I made an alternate version called Grapes in the Vineyard that can be used any time of the year. If you're familiar with my work, you know how much I love alliteration. It was extremely difficult not to call it Grapes in the Grape-yard!  You can always find ways around a Halloween ban!


Where Can I Find Out More?

Want to know more about materials, how to increase or decrease difficulty for your grade level, and more? See the video below for a walk-through of this challenge:




Are There Others Like This?


You know me, I hate to stop with one seasonal challenge, so I never do! This is one of five Halloween challenges. Each Halloween STEM challenge has a corresponding video on my YouTube channel.

You'll also find the Halloween bundle briefly described in this post

All challenges are available individually and in discounted bundles in my TpT store, as well.













Check out some of these other great ideas!




Blogger:

October 2, 2016

September 2016 Recap



Whoa! September felt like a super, super long month.  So much has happened.  First of all, the most important thing for me to share is that I'm finally, actively on Instagram!




I know you were just holding on with bated breath waiting for the day, right?! I'm already seeing the power of it. People - maybe even you - have been tagging me in their posts of students hard at work on one of my STEM challenges. From the very bottom of my heart, I thank you! I can't tell you how much joy it brings me to see it! Please keep doing it! Or start doing it! I'm @kerrtrac (my name without the Ys).

I've also updated all of the Thanksgiving challenges this month (remember, I updated Halloween last month). I'm trying to stay well ahead of it for you!I know you will love the the additions, so be sure to re-download if you already own any of the following by going to "My Purchases" in TPT.




PRODUCT UPDATES

You are definitely going to want to re-download these if you own them, because  I added a lot of new goodies! You'll find new primary response pages with expanded room for response, new cross-curricular extension ideas and handouts, and more!













BLOG POSTS AND GUEST POSTS












YouTube

Videos are up for Halloween STEM challenges to give you plenty of time to prepare! Wings Wanted, Bone Bridge, Creature Catcher, and Treat Toss are live, and Ghosts in the Graveyard will post October 6th. 

**CLICK HERE FOR THE HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE-WALK-THROUGH PLAYLIST**


Life

Well, when I set out to write a monthly recap post, I included a "life" section so I would be forced to take the time to look back and reflect on the things going on in life that were not work-related. Last month really was a heads-down, get-the-work-done month. There isn't much outside of work that I can recall, except that a new season of Project Runway started, and that delights me. I think there's something in me that loves design challenges -- whether it be STEM or fashion!  

This is a good exercise for me, reflecting on how I'm living my life. Like so many, I have a tendency to get fixated on my work to the neglect of too many important aspects of a well-lived life!  I will set out to make October a little more balanced! In the words of Time Gunn, I'll "make it work"!

COMING IN OCTOBER

I'll be updating the winter & Christmas STEM challenges, and posting video walk-throughs for the Thanksgiving challenges on YouTube. I've got a brand new product line in mind I'll be starting on as well! And, of course, finding some non-work things to do, so it won't be all work and no play for the next recap!  Stay tuned.


WHAT ELSE?

If you want to receive notifications of these monthly recaps, you can follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers. I send a monthly note linking back to this post so all the links are easy to find (see the image below)! You can also follow this blog.

September Note to TPT Followers